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Research Coins: Feature Auction

CNG 106, Lot: 879. Estimate $500.
Sold for $750. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Artavasdus. Usurper, 741/2-743. PB Seal (225mm, 13.98 g, 12h). As patrikios and kouropalates, after 717. ΘEOTOKE BOHΘEI in the form of a cruciform monogram; Tω Δ(OV)/Λω C(OV) in quarters / APTAVAC/Δω ΠATPI/KIωS KOV/PAΠAΛATH in four lines; cross flanked by palm fronds above and below. Schlumberger, Sceaux 180 var. (rev. legend arranged differently). VF, earthen gray patina. Very rare and of exceptional quality. An interesting seal of the usurper before his rise to the throne.

After Constantine V, brother-in-law of Artavasdus, succeeded Leo III, Artavasdus attacked him en route to a campaign against the Umayyads and usurped the throne. Artavasdus’ reign saw an overturn of Leo’s strict iconoclastic policies, but his orthodox efforts would ultimately be short-lived and his restoration of the icons in turn reversed. Artavasdus’ forces were defeated by Constantine V in the summer of 743. On 2 November of the same year, he and his son Nicephorus, whom he had raised to co-emperor, had their eyes put out in the Hippodrome.

Prior to his rise to the purple, the Armenian-born Artavasdus was appointed strategos by Anastasius II in circa 713. He supported Leo III, then governor of the Anatolic theme, in his revolt against Theodosius III – an alliance that was sealed with Artavasdus receiving the hand of Leo’s daughter Anna, as well as the titles of kouropalates (“master of the palace”) and the position of komes of the Opsikion. For a similar seal that carries the additional title of “komes of the Opsikion”, see G.L. Schlumberger, Sigillographie de l’empire byzantin [Paris: E. Leroux, 1884], p. 249, 2).